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Robert Matagi, accused in chase and crash that killed young father near 13th and Morgan, convicted

Robert Matagi

MILWAUKEE — A young man prosecutors say was driving a vehicle that struck and killed a young father near 13th and Morgan as a deputy pursued that vehicle on April 11 pleaded no contest Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Robert Matagi, 18, entered the plea to one count of hit-and-run involving death. Two other counts were dismissed: Second degree reckless homicide, and operator flee/elude officer — death.

According to the criminal complaint, a short time after 5 p.m. on April 11, a Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy observed a red car traveling southbound on I-43 near Lapham Street. The deputy noted the vehicle was being driven “recklessly at a high speed, using the distress lane to pass other vehicles.” The deputy activated the squad’s lights and siren and began a pursuit.

Crash near 13th and Morgan credit Stephanie Routt

The complaint said the car exited the freeway at Holt Avenue — and proceeded west on Morgan Avenue. At 13th and Morgan, the complaint said the driver of the vehicle (Matagi) disregarded a red traffic signal and slammed into another vehicle at a high rate of speed. The red car also struck two other vehicles in the process. The complaint indicated Matagi jumped out of his vehicle — and began to run. A deputy caught up to him a short while later — and took him into custody.

A female passenger that jumped from Matagi’s vehicle was “located in a nearby gas station attempting to conceal a firearm and suspected narcotics,” the complaint said. She pleaded guilty to a charge of her own, detailed below.

Crash near 13th and Morgan courtesy: Christian Veras

The driver of the first vehicle that was struck, Pedro Colon-Ortiz, 25, suffered severe injuries — and was eventually pronounced dead. Colon left behind a 1-year-old son.

Pedro Colon-Ortiz

The data from the airbag control module of Matagi’s vehicle was downloaded as part of the investigation. It indicated “prior to the collision, MatagiĀ  was traveling at 85 miles per hour, the accelerator pedal was at 93% and the engine throttle was at 99%.” The speed limit on Morgan Avenue at the location of the collision is 30 miles per hour.

When questioned by investigators, Matagi said he did not remember much after the collision at 13th and Morgan. In an apology letter, the complaint said Matagi wrote the following:

“I had a gun and some marijuana in the car with no license and I was scared to go to jail and be stranded in Milwaukee so I sped up.”

A woman prosecutors said was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Matagi hid Matagi’s gun in a trash can in a gas station restroom moments after the crash.

Makayla House

Makayla House

Makayla House, 20, of Arcadia, on July 18 pleaded guilty to one count of carrying a concealed weapon. On July 22, she was sentenced to serve four months in the House of Correction with Huber release, with credit for six days’ time served. She was also ordered to complete 40 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said at the scene of the crash near 13th and Morgan, a deputy was approached by a citizen who revealed “a short female with a light complexion exited the suspected fleeing vehicle and walked into the Himalayan Gas Station.” Deputies entered the gas station in an attempt to locate that individual. One deputy saw that the bathroom light was on, and attempted to make contact with the occupant. After knocking a second time, the door opened, and the deputy made contact with House — whose “hand was near the garbage can in the bathroom.” When the deputy asked whether she was concealing anything, she “answered that she was.” She then advised that she had concealed a firearm in the trash can — and admitted she was the front seat passenger in the fleeing vehicle. She said after the crash, Robert Matagi “handed her the firearm and told her to hide it.”

She was taken into custody, and a revolver was recovered from the garbage can.

House was interviewed, and the complaint said she advised that Matagi was driving the fleeing vehicle. She identified a third person who was in the rear middle seat. She said Matagi “drove in the emergency lane of the freeway and was driving a little fast when he saw the marked squad,” which caught up quickly with its emergency lights activated and chased them on the freeway for approximately one minute before they took an exit ramp. House said they drove for approximately one more minute before crashing.

She said after they crashed, she opened her eyes and Matagi was gone. She said she and the rear passenger exited the vehicle and a deputy yelled, “Don’t move!” She said she sat down on the curb, and the deputy ran off, presumably to chase Matagi. House said Matagi’s revolver was in the center console, and she removed it from the vehicle — wrapping it in Matagi’s jacket. She then walked to the gas station and placed it in the trash can in the bathroom, along with Matagi’s jacket and her e-cigarette. She said a deputy then knocked on the door, and she was arrested.

Drew Sargeant-Conner

Drew Sargeant-Conner

Prosecutors said one day before the crash, Matagi and two others, including the individual who was in the back seat of the vehicle during the crash at 13th and Morgan, were involved in an armed robbery in La Crosse. According to prosecutors, Matagi pistol whipped one of the victims.

Matagi, along with Drew Sargeant-Conner, 19, of Chippewa Falls, and Diamond Allen, 19, of La Crosse, were each charged with one count of armed robbery, as party to a crime. The charge was dismissed against Allen on April 30. A status hearing was scheduled for Aug. 29 for Sargeant-Conner.

According to a criminal complaint, just before 5 p.m. on April 10, La Crosse police were called out to the area near Rose Street and Sill Street in La Crosse for a report of a robbery. It was learned an apartment had been broken into and a child was bleeding. The tenant was crying, and told police she went to the kitchen to make food when she heard a knock on the door, and asked her boyfriend whether he was expecting anyone. Before he could answer, the front door was kicked in and “four black subjects — two males and two females” entered the apartment.

She identified one suspect as Matagi — and said he “pointed a gun at her and told her to get on the kitchen floor.” She said Matagi ordered one of the other suspects, later identified as Diamond Allen, to “watch” the tenant, and Matagi went to the bedroom where the tenant’s boyfriend was. The tenant advised Matagi had a “silver handgun.” She said two other suspects joined Matagi in the bedroom, and one suspect, identified as Drew Sargeant-Conner, came out holding a baseball bat — “pacing back and forth and standing guard” over the tenant. After about five minutes, all four suspects left. The tenant said her iPhone and wallet were taken — with her wallet containing cash, a debit card, her license, her Social Security card, and other items.

She noted that she knew three of the suspects — Matagi, Sergeant-Conner, and Allen. She offered a description of the fourth suspect.

The complaint said during the robbery, the tenant’s boyfriend was pistol whipped, and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. He said he briefly lost consciousness when he was struck by the firearm.

Fatal crash at 13th and Morgan -- Robert Matagi

According to the complaint, after the incident, the tenant’s boyfriend attempted to make contact with Matagi through Facebook Messenger, and he later received a voicemail message from Matagi, in which Matagi stated, “I’m just glad you’re not dead. Now leave me the (expletive) alone.”

Matagi is set to be sentenced on Sept. 25.

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